While it may to impossible to fully understand the Purdue Outing Club kayakers, let’s just say they’re a laid back, fun, and extremely outgoing group. They typically don’t have any secrets from each other and somehow they tend to find and bring out the best in the people they meet. No one is around us for long that doesn’t come out of their shell, or become more comfortable about themselves. This year’s spring break was not any different!
We are also well known for being an organized and safe (on the river!) group to paddle with. There have been countless compliments and comments on how people like paddling with us due to these two traits. But when you paddle with us you come to kayak (or raft) and not to party and sleep. We spend as much time on the water as we can to fully enjoy the sport we all love so much.
Below you’ll find a detailed trip report of what went on during the 2010 spring break trip. For our club this was the first “EPIC” trip we have ever had. Some of the events that took place we find funny and others were a learning experience. While it’s impossible to avoid having “things” happen in kayaking, we do what we can to minimize our risks and we always learn from our mistakes. I hope this trip report shows our maturity in this regard.
Overall the trip was a blast, everyone had fun, and we can’t wait to do it again next year (minus all the epic events that took place)!
The week of kayaking mayhem was planned and the kayakers finally had solid plans… on when to leave! Everyone was to meet at 5:00pm by the RSC pool doors to pack the cars and head out. Knowing how we operate, on Thursday night we all placed bets on when we actually might leave. Most of us gave a time between 30 minutes to an hour and a half late. After I (David) spent 4 hours at Wal-Mart getting tires, an oil change, fixing the tire they screwed up, and finally arriving at the RSC, we left at 7:30pm. I was rightfully accused of cheating on the bets.
We were off! Well, we left the RSC and headed different directions to meet at a gas station. Rob somehow managed to get lost in Lafayette, Kate went the wrong direction on 25, and who knows where the rest of us went! After enough craziness David, Kate, and Derick all headed out with Rob far ahead down the road. How we managed to screw up leaving West Lafayette together still boggles the mind but is a great foreshadowing to our entire trip.
While eating Kate had mentioned that her oil light had come on, but after checking that she had oil we assumed all was fine. Around Brownsburg David had to pull over to check his roof rack since a strap was making a lot of noise. As he pulled over he got a call from Kate saying her car was making a “bird” noise. Shortly thereafter her car made a concerning clunk and she was forced to get off the exit, ironically, at the same time the group was already exiting to fix Dave's strap. As she reached the end of the off ramp every light on her instrument panel lit up and the car would not start. We spent some time trying to jump it, checking fluids, and trying to come up with other options. After calling a tow truck we waited for about an hour and a half. During this time several people stopped to ask if we needed help including four police cars, needless to say we had the routine down as far as what to tell the cars that stopped to help. One person in a sketchy white pedophile looking van stopped and asked if we were ok. To which we replied, “Yes, thank you.” He replied with, “Well, F&*# ya’ll!” and drove off.
Finally the tow truck arrived and we towed the car to a dealership in Indy. We then stacked boats on our cars, changed gear over, and drove to Monica Davis’ house. During the drive Rob’s car started to randomly beep. The car alarm somehow got activated while we were driving and wouldn’t turn off. Eventually it stopped by itself and we ignored (and prayed) that issue.
We then moved the boats over and repacked the cars. We finally were off. Somehow, after all was said and done, it took us 6 hours to get from Purdue to Indianapolis. But finally we were off to the river! However, we still hadn’t decided on which one we were going to.
Saturday 3/13 – The Tellico
Driving all night did take a lot out of all of us. Many driver switches ensued and we all arrived safely. Being in a carpool tends to help quite a bit in these situations. By 9am we arrived at the Tellico River and most of the group was ready to rest. The level was a good 2.91ft and the experienced kayakers put on the upper section while the beginners rested. Rob told us he “knew the lines” and it would be a quick run. David agreed and planned on bombing the run as well so that we’d have plenty of time to run a section of the lower with the beginners.
As we approached the first drop Rob asked David, “Do you remember where we drop?” And after a quick debate, some boat scouting, and finally following the rule, “When in doubt, get out and look” we were set to go. John Blakey filmed all the drops hoping for some carnage, but all had great lines and the rest of the river did go somewhat smoother. But of course it took us longer than expected and the beginners were anxious for us to hurry up (although some were probably nervous and didn’t mind us taking our time!).
After running Jared’s Knee we put on the lower Tellico. While the beginning of the lower has some meatier rapids on it, we put in quite a bit below all of that. We run beginners down a 1 mile stretch with some good moving current and a few good rapids. This typically takes our group 3-4 hours on their first day and usually this is plenty for their first river experiences. As a whole our beginners did great despite their nerves and the cold. Each person spent a little time in the water and was ready to warm up, eat, and get to our cabin!
Nut-N-Fancy, not even the Mtn. Pass
If you haven’t stopped by the restaurant Nut-N-Fancy after running the Tellico then you are missing out. They give whole new meaning to southern hospitality, even with such a large group. And they even remembered us from last year which I hope is a good thing! During dinner we found out we just had to cross highway 165 (the mountain pass) and we’d be at our cabin shortly! After dinner, tons of their amazing rolls (Heidi), and plenty of water we headed out down the road toward the pass.
Many of us had not yet slept and we were about to switch drivers in the pass when we hit freezing fog. And I mean the fog was slightly above us and snow was falling to the ground from it while above the fog it was clear. I was following Monica’s car and saw them slide a little to the left in their lane. A little further up the hill Monica’s car just stopped. After saying some choice words to myself about how they would stop when they had momentum, I hopped in her car and got it to the top of the hill we were currently climbing. I then ran back down to get my car and drove up the rest of the way just fine.
Ahead of us we had another climb and I told Kate to keep her momentum and she’d be fine; I was wrong. As she headed up the hill her car just started to spin and could not make it up the mountain. I hopped in and did what I could (which was nothing), we tried to push, we tried digging a path in the snow with raft paddles, and eventually we tied 4 NRS cam straps onto Derick and Monica’s car to see if his 4-wheel drive could pull her up the hill. Our understanding was that we just needed to get up the hill and back down and we were there! However, during the couple hours we tried to solve this puzzle the fog lifted and the snow came. We tried everything and eventually gave up and turned around in defeat. From the time we started to the time we gave up about 6in. had fallen. We had to head back down and go around, but this was easier said than done.
As we headed back, we had to climb a small hill and again Monica’s car spun out. After having enough of this David lined his Toyota up against Monica’s and slowly pushed her up the hill. After some bumper cars we finally made it over the hill and reached the bottom. Rob then mentioned that it was probably good that we turned around due to fact that the pass was around 40miles at 4,000ft elevation. Knowing this earlier might have made us turn around sooner but probably not! We now had another 3 hour drive around the pass to reach our cabin in Bryson City, NC. We finally arrived at 3am and everyone was completely beat from the insane two days in the car.
Sunday 3/14 – Sleep and Rest
After waking up around 1pm we took the day off. I can’t begin to explain how out of character this is for our group. We tend to stay up very late and drag ourselves up at the crack of dawn to hit the nice cold water. However, this time the road, ice, snow, fog, and travel time had won out and we got the cabin ready to go. The cabin itself was pretty cool and had a very large main room that had several futons that folded down to beds. There were 3 bathrooms (sweet!) and 4 bedrooms. One of the bedrooms had three beds in it, but after pulling the top sheet back on one of the beds we found a mountain of mouse feces. This was the start of us noticing the failures of this place. Two stove burners didn’t work, the kitchen sink had very low water pressure (dishes were done in the shower), John and Rebecca's bedroom light went out the first night and never turned on again, and various other pieces were broken or didn’t work. And worst of all, the cabin had a tiny 4 person (which accommodates 7 evidently...) hot tub! But the cabin helped establish a great group atmosphere and plenty of friendship bonding took place (partly due to John’s Drama Drama Drama game… don’t ask... J).
Monday 3/15 – Nantahala
I’ve had some cold beginnings to spring break trips in the past but typically they were only for the first day or two. This year had to be the coldest spring break in a long time! We started this day out early and planned to head to the Little River in TN. This river is a great run that I had heard about many times. I also read online that the lower section is a great run for beginners. Due to the fact that the Little is natural flow we decided to try to hit it up as soon as possible.
We knew that the mountain pass was closed due to snow and that there was a rock slide on the interstate. And we even knew that there was a rock slide on the Tail of the Dragon (129?). But the one on the Tail sounded like it might be cleared up enough for traffic to pass. So we called many authorities and heard a variety of answers. We decided to just go for it and if it was closed we’d just head to the Nantahala. Of course we got to the bikers haven and found the road to be closed.
We arrived at the Nantahala at a decent time and decided to put on at the top of the river (Patton’s Run). Ferebee Park (our typical put-in) was closed due to construction. It looks like it’ll be very nice when they are done with it!
The day went pretty well despite the cold. We had a few less swims but by the time we got to Ferebee most of the beginners were cold and ready to be done. Luckily Rob’s mom was there and helped run a quick shuttle. Those with dry tops decided to bomb down the rest of the run. I got to witness our advanced kayakers (and new trip rescuers/leaders) interacting together. Seeing how they were all relaxed and paddling as a group made me feel good about the future of our kayaking club! The advanced group met the beginners at the falls and they were able to squeeze in a few runs before the end of the day. After a few runs of the falls, the beginners were eager to return and tackle the falls again.
Tuesday 3/16 – Little
The Little River (TN) is a true jewel and I now understand why it’s considered a classic run everyone must get on while they are in the Southeast. We were told it was easier than the Tellico and I’d have to agree that each individual rapid is more simplistic and straightforward with less potential to pin. However, the overall speed and pushiness of the river as well as the long continuous rapids make this river a whole new experience for those that are comfortable on the Tellico. I’d rate the Little as a fair amount harder than the Tellico due to these issues.
With our excellent planning we dragged everyone up early and headed to the river and got on at a reasonable time. The beginning of the Little is very straight forward and our experienced group was flying down it. We were rushing in the hopes that we’d be able to bomb down and get the beginners on the lower section. Just like the beginning of the trip, nothing really ever went to plan.
Rob and I were forced to walk the Sinks falls after a nice long scout due to some construction workers who would not allow us to set a rope up on the river left bank. We’re not people to run new and dangerous drops without a rope and safety near by, so quite some time was lost.
Also, some of the steep push water caught some of our guys (and girls) off guard. I remember one particular rapid where I boat scouted ahead and saw a considerable amount of water pushing up against a big flat rock. If anyone does not plan ahead they would surely slam into the rock and get pushed down into the pool below. I eddied out and signaled the group to come down because with just a couple strokes that rock is completely out of play, for me (oops!).
Now there are times you wish your helmet cam was working, or that the people on the bank in your group had the camera out but sometimes true carnage is only left to be remembered. This was one of those days. I remember Kerri Rapes coming down and she clearly didn’t realize how pushy the water was and I witnessed her SLAM into the big rock sideways. Her boat, shoulder, and head all made scary contact and she was flipped upstream. She rolled, smiled, and simply shook her head. Kate Hanus soon followed but took most of the hit on the side of her boat (on her knee) and flipped but rolled.
And then there was Monica. She somehow managed to flip before the rock, and took a shot to the face despite having a full face helmet on. If that isn’t just plain unlucky then I don’t know what is! Monica swam and her boat just soared downstream. Rob and I quickly made sure the group was together, that Monica was safe and ok, and I proceeded to bomb down after the boat. During the chase I realized how much fun this river would be to just read and run and potentially do laps on! After retrieving the boat I quickly took off my helmet to make sure I got everything on camera. Of course my stupidity caused me to turn it off instead of on and I missed the entire thing! But everyone was ok and we continued down.
Shortly after, there was a tricky rapid. I went on ahead, got out of my boat and scouted the rapid. After some difficulty communicating what the appropriately line was, Rob relayed the message to the rest of the group. After assuring that everyone was aware of the line I ran the rapid, making all of the right moves without too much of a hitch (except for one hole that I dropped into and disappeared for a little bit in.) After eddying out, I had a moment to think that that hole could be a little tricky for the group that was coming down behind me. I look up river and see that everyone is eddying out before the last major move of the rapid, except for one person, Kate, is barreling down the river, with no hope of eddying out. She attempts to square up for the drop she wanted to be to the right of and in doing so actually flips her boat. She precedes to go over the drop upside down, takes a couple hits, tacos her boat, and eventually swims. After this, I make the choice to have the rest of the group walk the rapid and we continue on.
Our short and quick run was taking quite a big longer than desired. We eventually got out and had the beginners vote on what they wanted to do. Despite knowing that it would be colder and a shorter run than planned they chose to paddle. The experienced group all felt bad that our runs kept taking longer and vowed to focus solely on getting them experience from this point on in the trip.
Luckily for us, Elbow was just around the corner so we sent the beginners down to get dressed and ready to put on below the Elbow. There was a slight worry above Elbow due to a tree being in the water. Luckily, it was deep enough in the water that it was out of play and all the nerves of running that rapid were easily relaxed after a couple of us showed the line. Then it came time to run the Elbow and thankfully Rob’s mom and her amazing camera caught some excellent shots of us paddling down. We had suggested dropping sideways into the small drop on far river left and riding the curler down the rest of the way. I probed and although it wasn’t the smoothest line, all went ok. The rest followed and by far Kerri and Heidi Trapp had the best lines on the rapid. Instead of dropping into the curler they slid right on top of it and rode the tongue down until the pool below where they both proceeded to flip. I am pretty sure they did this entirely on purpose so Rob and I would not expect more of the same smoothness on future rivers!
The Lower Little
After having great lines on Elbow we ran a quick shuttle to drop cars off at the 1 mile and 1.5 mile mark. Everyone put on in good spirits and we headed down. This section is a great place to expose beginners to natural flow as the speed is quite slow and the rapids are mostly smaller than the Nantahala. There are some good rapids and we did have two swims that were quickly recovered in the nice pools below.
Ian Dyrg was part of the shuttle crew and he made me aware of a tree that was on river right. I was keeping an eye out for it but unfortunately it was well hidden behind a rock until the unsuspecting paddler got fairly close to it. And this is where stuff hit the fan for us and I know this moment will be a learning experiment for me and the rest of the paddlers in our club.
As I rounded the corner I saw the tree with about half the current going into it. Typically when we run new rivers we send one experienced person slightly ahead of the group to make sure we see the danger before those with less boat control can run into it. And while this river was being run in the same manner we were rushing and the probe was too close to the group. As I signaled to Rob to go left I simply didn’t have time to signal our sign for tree. Instead I eddied out above the tree in the hopes that I could signal and get people to run the far left side well away from the danger.
Unfortunately, Rob and I were too close and by the time I started to signal they were dropping down the rapid and our first beginner, Jack, was attempting to eddie out but there was no way he would make it without any intervention. I quickly made the choice to slide back and give his boat as hard of a push into the eddy as possible knowing that this would surely send me right into the tree sideways. I was able to get him into the eddy and I certainly got myself to the tree. I quickly threw my body over the tree and wrapped around it the best I could. I saw Rob grab the eddy behind the tree and was running up the bank to me as fast as he could. While keeping my upstream edge up on my creek boat I felt the tree move and I looked behind me. Kerri had also hit the tree behind me but was in a deeper and better situation. Her training had paid off and while she didn’t hear me yell, “Back, back, back,” she complied and slid back into the current without issue.
I remember seeing Joe coming down the rapid upstream and about that time the front of my boat went down and under the tree. I would expect that the reason was that I was looking all around instead of just focusing on staying on the tree. Earlier as I first hit the tree I keenly looked for branches, how deep the water was, and if there was anything to snag on. As far as I could tell it was a clean tree but any experienced kayaker can tell you that going under a tree has to be the last option any of us want!
As the front of my boat went under the bark under my fingers started to slide and I knew I was going under. Since the tree was at an angle and the high part was on river right I threw my weight in that direction and flipped over. I felt the bottom but it wasn’t very shallow. As I felt myself flush through I setup for a hand roll, said a few choice words and simply bailed out of my boat. As I popped up I grabbed Tyler Hall’s boat but quickly opted to self rescue me and my creek boat. I proudly swam, made sure they got my paddle, and took a minute to rest on the bank.
Right as Rob had reached me I went under. The scariest part of the experience was realizing that the group could be in danger. I knew Joe was going right at the same spot I was in and was glad to see he had flipped and immediately flushed from under the tree as well. In my opinion (and I’m sure many others) this was a break down and a failure in my leadership. Our group is known for its safety and our structured way of running rivers. By keeping the probe and the group too close together we made a very serious flaw to our method and I know Rob and I have learned from this experience.
Some really good things did happen in this situation as well. I’m glad I made sure Jack missed the tree and I was the one who hit it. My experience (the PVC pipe across water exercise) and training (reading, watching, and learning) about different rescue and self-rescue techniques gave me the best chance of coming out of that situation. Rob’s quick reaction to get back to the tree was also a positive aspect as he knew the situation and was ready to react in a moment’s notice. The rest of the leadership did an excellent job of gathering the rest of the group, making sure they were safe, and not allowing someone to get downstream when all eyes were on the tree situation. I know we were lucky to run into the safest and best possible tree to have an issue with on a river, but I also know that mistakes happen and not everything can be controlled on the river. Our kayaking group is now going to hold our own swift water rescue clinic as well as participate in official courses.
I do not consider this a near-death-experience. It was a friendly reminder to never change your safe tactics despite hurrying down the river and it was great experience for all of us to deal with adversity on the river. I also found out that despite all of Kate’s, “I’ll never love you,” bantering she really does and I finally got to swim on a class II+ (minus the tree) rapid after a year stretch of not swimming on a river!
Wednesday 3/17 - Nolichucky
After an epic day on Tuesday we chose to head to the Nolichucky. We recently purchased a brand new NRS raft that needed to be broken in. While we waited for the shuttle to return, John and Kevin entertained us with street hockey using a ball of duct tape, a raft paddle, and a kayak as a goal. We piled our beginners into the raft and the rest of us ran kayak support...or just annoyed the rafters, as our excellent raft guide Kerri would say. The Nolichucky was at 3400cfs which I find to be a great level! The river right line of quarter mile rapid opened up and made for a smooth ride all the way down past the nasty ledge on river right. Also, Jaws was quite meaty. Kerri and the beginners tried to surf the raft. After one failed attempt she opted against a second try for fear of flipping. As the beginners watched from an eddy and the others played nearby, I went in anyway. Our club had just purchased two Jackson Mon-Stars and I was dying to try one out in a play hole.
As I got close to the hole it sucked me right in and I had a great initial surf. All the gear I was wearing prevented me from doing any donkey-flips, blunts, loops, or any of the tricks I don’t know and can’t do. But after about a minute or two and one flat spin I realized I was going to have to work hard to get out of this thing. I caught the back of the boat, flipped, and barrel rolled right back in the hole. While this was not what I had hoped for, I was able to dig my way to river right and smoothly get out of the hole with a smile. No one else opted to go get surfed so we continued down.
Our beginners really enjoyed rafting and many took the challenge of trying to stand on the front while the rest did their best to throw them off by paddling. We all finished the river with smiles on our faces and headed back to enjoy some good cooking at the warm cabin.
Thursday 3/18 – Upper Green
As if our trip had not been epic enough our Thursday run was another crazy experience. The lesson learned here was that we can’t sit up talking, hanging out, and playing John’s Drama, Drama, Drama game until the wee hours of the morning. We had stayed up late most nights but they finally took their toll and we headed out of the cabin later in the morning than usual.
After getting lost once or twice (according to Rob you are not “lost” if you know what state you are in and you know how to get home) we arrived at the Green River Adventures outfitter. We got some quick directions and we headed out.
The Upper Green river is another jewel I think everyone should run. If you can get on it during a clear day you’ll witness the emerald green water, waterfalls coming down both banks, and the remote beauty of the trees all around you. The only catch is that the takeout is easy to miss and doing so will cause you to start running the Green River Narrows (class V whitewater). This was also the first truly warm, bright, and sunny day that we had on our break thus far which made the run even more enjoyable.
We put on the river around 3:30pm after shuttle and headed down towards Bayless Boof, the first of two class III rapids. This first class III is a great introduction to boofing for those who want to give it a try and since the river was at least releasing at 100%, a nice slide is available on river right. About half of our group ran the boof and the other half ran the slide. We set each person up that ran the boof on the top left eddy and had them paddle the rest of the way down.
John did an excellent back flip while running the ledge upside down and Kate had a scare with pitoning right into some rocks below the drop. These same rocks slightly bent Kerri’s boat but the rest made sure to hit their boof line and enjoyed the drop. The rest of the group set up and ran the slide in two groups. Joyce followed me in the second group and did excellent all the way down. As she hit the pool below she forgot to paddle and had a fun swim! Despite the swim it was still a great job and out of all the beginners Joyce was kicking ass all the way down this river. She truly relaxed and looked completely in control.
The rapid right below Bayless is a nice hole that sometimes will have wood or trees in it. With our previous experience in this matter Rob headed down to look for wood. Now I was the only one in the group that had run this river more than once and still knew it but my memory was not perfect. After seeing Rob signal we were clear and to head to the left side of the drop I got the group together and we headed down all together. Just as I dropped into the massive hole I thought to myself, “Ut oh.”
About 80% of the beginners hit the same hole, flipped and swam after this rapid. While it wasn’t a hole that would re-circulate, it was great at flipping the unsuspecting paddler and the frothy water right after made it more difficult to roll. We now had people and gear everywhere on this rapid! The rescuers sprang into action and got everyone to shore as soon as possible and then headed down for gear. Amazingly we got everything back and didn’t even lose a paddle in the process. Jack and Brian did some gear swapping- one had a paddle and one had a boat while the rest was downstream. After some hiking around the bank everyone got back in a boat and we were ready to head off down the river.
I’m not sure who let me know the time (maybe Kate?) but it was 6:15pm. Hearing this literally sent a chill down my spine as I knew we were about a third down the 3.7 mile run and it’ll be getting dark by 8pm. Now personally I was freaking out quite a bit in my own mind but I knew I couldn’t show it to the group. If they got more nervous we’d only move slower and we’d be in even more trouble. As we progressed down the river I did my best to positively reinforce the beginners while letting all the rescuers know how much trouble we could be in if we didn’t hurry.
As the word quietly spread we pushed to get down the river. After a mandatory portage around a tree we rushed the beginners to their boats and got them moving. During this time Rob and I made that call that after the next major rapid we’d have the beginners portage to avoid another carnage fest and I’d leave the group to go find the take-out before dark. One of our biggest rules is to never leave the group and never paddle alone but this was the right call to make. I was the only one who knew where the take-out was and if I didn’t see it while it was still light we could be in trouble.
We arrived at the last class III and I waved and bombed down the rest of the river. I can tell you that it’s an eerie feeling paddling down a river alone, in the middle of nowhere, and having it slowly start to get darker on you. Just as I passed a familiar surfing wave I looked back and realized that I might have seen a trail. I stopped, took out, and ran up the bank. Luckily, I was right and with the impending darkness I was relived I found the takeout. This relief was short lived as I was now worried about the group and the darkness. To let Rob know he was getting close I blew my whistle and stood on the bank.
As the group headed down, Rob took the lead and moved slowly as a group. Very few rapids existed from where I left the group until the takeout. As the visibility diminished Rob was ready to have the group get out and start hiking. We don’t paddle at night and the moment of hiking out was now upon the group. The only issue was that the group was in a gorge and couldn’t hike out right at the spot they were in. Rob told the other leaders he’d head down and see if there was a better spot around the bend. If there was he’d blow his whistle twice and they should come down. As he rounded the bend he saw the river left side flatten out and blew his whistle twice to have the group head down. Everyone was told to stay as close as possible with the group, and all the beginners were praying to stay upright. Right after blowing his whistle he heard another whistle back from up and down stream. Whistles were all around him and eventually he yelled out only to hear Dave yell back. They were at the takeout and finally safe, from the water.
To say the group was ready to get off the river was an understatement. We all hiked into the woods and lined up with our boats. We now had to hike 1.5 miles up hill to the cars. I took the lead and Tyler Hall ran sweep in order to keep the group together. We walked as a group and stopped every couple hundred yards to help carry boats, rest, and get our footing. In order to ward of any bears we used lots of loud talking, singing songs, and yelling “Eat the Fat One!” Eventually we hit the gravel road and saw the lights to the takeout. Our epic day was over and despite the ending in the dark, spirits were high and the Upper Green turned out to be many of the group’s favorite run.
The obvious lesson learned here was putting on late with any beginner run is still stupid. Being aware of the time is also important all the way down the river and not just when it’s getting late. Typically we also bring a headlamp along but this was accidently left in the car. Several of us should have had one as well just in case and we will in the future.
We did have our first aid kits, with emergency blankets, fire, and other wilderness supplies. I am proud to say we have never left those in the car or at home when heading out on a trip. Monica even had extra wool socks stashed in her boat, to the amazement of the beginners. (RLS) If things would have gotten worse we would have been ok due to having the correct items for those extreme situations. We also made the right choices once we knew we were in trouble. Sending someone to spot the takeout was key as well as Rob’s leadership to move the group as fast and far down the river until it got to dark. Also, looking for a place to start hiking was the next key decision that prevented any danger from playing a part.
Friday 3/19 – Nanny
Since our group had such a great time rafting we wanted to get back out on the water with it. We saw the Upper Ocoee would be releasing on TVA’s website. The lower section was closed due to a rockslide. We swung by NOC for some gear and talked to the guys at the desk. Evidently the road to the Upper was closed as they were doing construction on the entire road while it was closed off. This gave us another laugh and added to our epic travel adventures.
The cars went back and picked up the boats we left at the cabin so we could all put in on the Nantahala again. This time we put-in at surfers and headed down to run the falls multiple times. After some surfing we headed down with the group. Everyone looked much more comfortable and with the warmer weather still upon us the run went smoothly.
At the falls we did several runs while Laura Rassion, Rebecca, and Janet took pictures and filmed. (RLS) NOC had said that the river would be down by 4:30 pm so we did quite a few runs as quick as possible. Everyone loved the falls and we only had 1 swim above it which required a long walk along the river left bank for the swimmer. We also had Katharina lose her paddle and attempt to hand paddle away from the top hole. She unfortunately was unsuccessful and got a little munched before the hole spit her and her boat out. She didn't hear it but everyone cheered when she finally flushed out. She was unscathed and laughed about it on the bank. This did make GREAT video and we can’t wait to show it at our next club meeting!
It was now closer to 5pm and the water was still not even dropping. I headed down stream to do a quick scout of Worser Wesser (class V but really more like a IV). I’ve run this one quite a few times in the last few years and with the rumors of it possibly being changed to accommodate rafts I felt like I should run it before any changes are made. After a quick scout the rest of the group brought me my creek boat, full-face helmet, and I quickly switched over my helmet camera.
After a quick rope or two was setup and the HD handycam was ready I headed down and had a smooth line starting down the middle, hit the curler and let it take me to the right until I punched through it and missed the hole at the bottom. Smooth is always good on this rapid and I hiked out with a smile on my face. Overall the day was probably one of the best days we had!
Saturday 3/20 – Cheoah / Tellico
On Saturday some choices were made. The Tellico had dropped to a safe level to allow some of the beginners to huck off of baby falls. The pool below will grab the swimmer and all their gear and sweep them into the river left eddy without causing them to run Diaper Wiper. The beginners who ran the falls had a lot of fun and chose to run it several times.
Xavier Rassion (Super Champion) and I opted to catch the Cheoah release that morning. We headed out to the river and the group was going to swing by, drop off our gear, and then we’d meet them at the Tellico after our run.
Before I ran Worser I warmed up in the creek boat in the rapids below. I had to adjust my back band and noticed I had a little water in my boat which was weird since I just got it off the car. I figured it was from my shoes but I’d check it after the rapid. Of course I forgot but as soon as I got the boat off my car at the Cheoah I checked the bottom and immediately found a 2in crack just in front of the seat of the boat. This instantly made me feel sick as I’ve only had the boat for a year and a half. Who knows where or when that happened?
After quite a bit of duct tape Xavier and I headed down the river and had a great run down the entire river. After having a crack in my boat I was very liberal with trying to boof everything I could find which made for a very enjoyable day! We took the left line off Bear Creek Falls and both had sweet lines! We were both satisfied with our runs and rushed to get back with the rest of the group.
Unfortunately we forgot to bring an extra strap with us to tie down my creek boat on Xavier’s car. Also, his roof rack is not the most solid or stable one in existence and did not like the weight of the play boats and the creek boat. We tied the creeker to the rack with one strap and tied the front of the boat to the other two to keep it together and headed out. My creek boat was air-ride equipped all the way through the 50 mile mountain pass that we tried to climb and go through in the snow earlier in the week. Luckily it was bright, sunny, and warm all the way to the Tellico.
After we arrived we ate at Nut-N-Fancy and Rob’s car headed on home to West Lafayette. The rest of us debated between the Big South Fork on Sunday and the Tellico again. Eventually the Tellico won out which made me happy as it took me 5 years to run it for the first time! We camped riverside that night, and Monica, Kate, John, Rebecca, and Josh took a midnight walk to enjoy the last night in the North Carolina wilderness.
Sunday 3/21 – Tellico
The weeks training for the group paid off on the Upper Tellico. We all were hitting the lines pretty well and had some great boofs all the way down. We ran Baby Falls three times and all had excellent lines on Jared’s Knee. Amazingly we put on at around 9am and were on the road to home by noon! The trip home went smoothly and we all arrived before 10pm.
Of all the trips I’ve been on and led this was by far the most epic. The travel times, snow, and random rock slides all around us hopefully are once in a life time situations. The epic-ness that occurred on the river is something else for us to consider and think about. We have all the right tools, knowledge, and experience to have avoided the tree incident and the paddling at night. Having these happen has made us rethink our future decisions and planning for future trips. I’m glad our group knew what to do when the time came to react but in the future we’ll be more prepared, trained, and will do what we can to prevent events like this from occurring again.
We’ve written about the entire trip for all of us to remember the good times, like fitting 7 people in a 4 person hot tub, and the situations that we need to learn from. Kayaking is a fun, exciting, and sometimes dangerous sport but we will also do what we can do enjoy it in the safest possible way. In all the years of trips, having one truly epic adventure will be good for the future of our club!
To all those who came on our Spring Break trip, we all enjoyed paddling with you and I hope this trip report brings back all the good memories and good times we had on and off the water!
See you on the water.